The picture shows people tanning under the sun in the Versailles Palace---Paris people resting up at Versailles enjoying the scenery. The place is a historical site loved by many people all around the world; many tourists visit Versailles every year. But, wait. Enough about Versailles, how about the traditional Korean palaces?
Unfortunately, it is hard to find warmth in the ancient palaces in Seoul. They are lonely places with not many visitors. Therefore, what we need to do is reassure and promote the importance of the cultural assets, since culture is what represents our nation. I chose to visit the Korean traditional palaces to find out more about our culture and to recommend them to other people.
Before we start our ancient royal palace tour, let us first go over the history and locations of Korea’s traditional palaces.
This is a map of ancient Seoul (Hanseongbu).
N1 is the center of Seoul; Gyeongbokgung palace. There is one fundamental principle of traditional palace planning here; the government office is at the front, the market in the back, the tomb is to the left, and the altar to the right.
The Altar of the Earth (N2) & the Temple of Ancestors (N3) are in front of and to the right of the palace. And the market is behind the palace. Ultimately, the five ancient palaces in Seoul (Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changgyenggung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeonghuigung Palace) are built based on Feng Shui, the geomantic tradition.
This is a picture of the palace tour course: Jongmyo (Confucian Shrine) - Changgyenggung Palace - Insadong Street - Cheonggye Creek ~Gwanghwamun.
First, I went to Jongmyo Shrine, which is located at Jongno 3-ga station, exit 11. Jongmyo Shrine has a spirit tablet of the King and Queen. A detailed explanation on the tablet tells the viewers more about the history of the kings and queens.
There is a pond at Jongmyo Shrine. There are no fish, as it is said that the souls of the dead live in the pond.
This is the enshrined kings & queens’ ancestral tablet. The structure is over 10m, built with an extension.
Wooden struts make the palace look even more beautiful as the sunlight reflects on it.
The second place I went to was Changgyenggung Palace. It is located on the left of the Changdeokgung Palace, and is connected to Jongmyo Shrine. The building was rebuilt after the damage caused during the Japanese occupation. This place has a lot of sad history, but what I came across some of the most beautiful landscapes.
This palace was occupied by the last royal family of the Joseon Dynasty, so it was quite modern compared with other palaces.
This picture features the front gate of Changgyeonggung Palace. Normally, the front gate of a palace faces south, but this one faces east.
Go through Honghwahmun Gate (the main gate of Changgyeonggung Palace) and you can see Okcheongyo Bridge. In this picture, you can see that the center is higher than the right and left. It is because the king always walked through the center of the road and the guards walked on the left and right sides.
Tong-Myung-Jun is very well known, especially for Jang Heebin, one of the most famous royal concubines, who stayed there.
Then I went to Insadong Street for my third destination. This neighborhood onsists of traditional Korean houses and is also very popular for Korean style restaurants and galleries.
This is Ssamgi road. You can see all kinds of cute stuff on display.
Insadong street is referred to as the ‘Special Tourist Zone.’ All the signboards are in Korean, unlike other parts of the city of Seoul. This makes me very proud to be Korean.
The last place I went to was Cheonggyecheon Creek. I was just in time to see Seoul Lantern Festival 2011. The title is ‘History of Seoul by the lantern,’ and we can see Hanyang (the old Seoul), life in the Joseon era, and so on. Overall, six themes were exhibited in 2011.
Hanji is traditional Korean paper: handmade from mulberry trees.
This annual festival is held in the second week of November from 5 to 11 pm. If you missed it this year, you might want to find it November 2012 when it starts. You can spend a great evening with your friends, family, and partner.
I was not able to go visit Gyeongbokgung Palace due to a lack of time, but this is the oldest of the five royal palaces of the Joseon period. It is the most representative one as well, so if you want to learn the history of Seoul, visit Gyeongbokgung Palace.< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
I regret that I couldn’t report about all five royal palaces, but I think it is really important that we know about our cultural backgrounds and assets. So how does cultural traveling sound?